A shelf unit from pallets

I like using natural dyes. The problem is that a lot of them are rather smelly to process.  And that process takes hours, so the whole house gets to share the smell. In warmer climates, people set up some form of camping stove outside, so that they can enjoy the weather and avoid the smell.

In a Yorkshire winter, cooking outside isn’t so appealing.

I’ve got a studio attached to the house, and the connecting door is very convenient. But any smell in there will find its way into the rest of the house. So I’m setting up a dye house a separate garage. There are various bits and pieces that I need to have handy when I’m out there, and of course there are some things that need to be kept in the garage anyway. So I need a storage unit.

I saved the pallets from the recent building work, and I’ve seen lots of ideas on Pinterest for turning them into furniture. Of course, my pallets don’t seem to work for any of the plans I’ve seen, so I’ve had to use my initiative. With the aid of a jig saw, some cable ties and a bit of MDF, this is what I’ve made. 

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Stocking up on scarf rings

I’m getting low on the embroidered scarf rings, so I’ve been making some more.

I like the flowers best, but the green swirls were fun to do.

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A packing session

I’ve got a bit behind with my scarf packing. It is partly because I’d rather be making than packing. It doesn’t help that I do like having all the colours about the place.

But that can’t go on for ever, so I’ve had a packing session.

And here are all of them spread out, ironed, and on their way into bags.

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Big progress with the studio

My studio has been a work in progress for a while. I have been using the garage for its new purpose for a long time now, but it has been a dark and gloomy place.

But this week, there was a big step forward. The old garage doors have gone. They were beautifully made wooden ones, but as the opening is nice and wide, they were very heavy. They had sagged on their hinges.

That meant that on the rare occasions I opened the doors, it was very difficult to lift them enough to move them. And there was usually a howling gale coming in over the top of the door. And if the wind was coming from the north on a rainy day, the puddle went about a third of the way across the floor.

So something had to be done. After a lot of thought, I’ve gone for single garage doors, with windows in the top, and windows down the side. Light is flooding in, and it is actually warm now. As this is side of the house faces north, that light is the ideal sort for a studio.

Once the lads have finished sealing round the outside, I will be emptying the greenhouse into tubs to go across the ramp in front of the windows, which will cheer the view up considerably. Assuming my carefully selected windproof plants can settle down, so fingers crossed there.

And then there is a list of things to sort out before the place is how I want it. A sink needs to go in, I need some curtains for when I’m in there after dark…

But I’m well on my way now!


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A blue batch of solar dyeing

Most easily available natural dyestuffs give beige gold or beige.

So discovering something that gives blue is a very useful event.

Black beans. Ordinary ones, from the local supermarket.

They went into the jars of water at the beginning of September, and produced a surprising amount of colour by the following day.

After a few weeks of rather disappointing autumn weather, the scarves I put in were a lovely pale blue.

So the next tasks on the to do list are:

  • Try the same beans with electric power in the slow cookers. This may produce a darker colour.
  • Try over dyeing fabric that has already been dyed gold. Logically that should come out a nice green. If the blue tint is overpowered by the gold, that one may not work.



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Another flour paste technique

In my first experiment with flour paste resist, I spread the paste all over the fabric, and then scraped off a pattern. The hardest part of the process was getting the dried paste off.

Logically, therefore, the next thing to try is putting less paste on. So my next idea was to pipe a pattern onto the fabric with an icing pump.

I wanted a bold pattern, so I began with a reasonably thick nozzel. The line spread rather a lot, so I changed to the smallest nozzel I had.

This turned out to be a very good move. In the first picture, you can see the two thicknesses of line.

You can also see how much water had been absorbed from the paste by the fabric in the time it took to pipe the pattern and reach for my camera.

The second picture was taken a couple of days later. The finer lines have dried, but you can see from the colour of the thicker lines that they are still wet.

It took over a week for the whole scarf to be ready to paint.

I was aim at splodgy impressionistic flowers, so I wanted to make sure the background blended in with the design rather than being a plain colour. As I painted the flowers with a variety of orange and yellow procion dyes, I spread the colour onto the background from time to time, where it could merge just like watercolour paint does on paper.

This time, the flour paste came off easily, in big chunks, leaving the basic design visible. All that was left was to refine the design by adding some lines in fabric crayon.



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Look at my new quirky display idea!

I’m always on the lookout for new display ideas, especially now that Etsy allow 10 photos per listing where they used to have 5. Apart from anything else, it is another good reason to look round antique centres and charity shops.

So I was pleased to see these on a shelf in a local antique centre. They were described as mahogany and brass robe hangers. The arms swivel round the handle/hook, so you can hang it on a rail, or on a hook.

The brass sections are a bit distressed. I’ve peeled off some emulsion paint already, but made no attempt to restore the metal properly. I’m not convinced that they will respond to metal polish, as it may be that the metal is plated. On the other hand, the rest is nice quality, so solid brass fittings would be reasonable.

I wonder whether this is a pair, or whether it just happens that two were kept together? I’ve never seen anything quite like these, which make a nice addition to my collection of old coat hangers.

Now all I need is to find a replacement for the missing china knob. In the mean time, I’m viewing that feature as part of the quirky charm.

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Painting trees with salt

This design combines two techniques, which as you can see from the picture gives some very different results.

First, the basic shapes of a tree trunk standing on a hillside was drawn, using wax.

Then the whole scarf was painted in the background colour, and some ordinary salt crystals were added while the paint was wet. I aimed to make the shape of the tree’s canopy with the salt, to complete the picture.

The salt crystals absorb the paint, leaving a pattern on the surface. It isn’t possible to control this pattern, which depends on the wetness of the colour as well as the dryness of the salt crystals.

Because the pattern forms round each individual crystal, it looks like a mass of leaves. The pictures show the scarf just after the salt crystals have been added, and the following day when the colour had been absorbed.

After the dry salt was brushed off, the wax was removed from the fabric by pressing it between absorbent paper with an iron. This also helps to fix the colour, but I “cooked” them in the oven as well, just to be on the safe side.

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First adventures with woad

Well, I’ve finally bitten the bullet.

I’ve read dire warnings about the importance of being patient with woad harvesting, because:

  • you need a lot of leaves to get a decent amount of dye, and
  • the chemicals that provide the blue dye take time to develop in the plant.

I only have a few plants, and they don’t look very big. However, on the whole people who write about natural dyes are working in larger quantities than I am. They need enough yarn to knit a jumper, or the fabric to make a tablecloth. I’m working with light weight scarves that weigh 7-8g each.

I decided this week that I needed to make a start and see what happened. I used the vinegar method, which tends to extract less pigment, but it is quicker, so I thought it would be a good guide as to how things were going. After all, I didn’t even know how much a woad leaf weighed, so I didn’t know how much I needed.

Woad is a member of the cabbage family, so I wasn’t surprised that as I chopped it up there was a smell of overcooked cabbage. It got quite strong, so I was pleased to mask that smell by covering the chopped leaves with a mixture of cold water and white vinegar. I kneaded it for 5 minutes, strained off the liquid, and repeated the process. That produced a bright green liquid, which I reckoned would be enough for 5 scarves.

I thought I would play safe, in case it is too early in the season to get a lot of colour. I put in two white scarves, one of a pale mustard that comes from buddleia, and one that had been dyed a golden orange with dahlias. I tied them all up in various ways to make patterns.

The scarves soaked in the dye bath for about an hour, and then oxidised on the washing line until they were dry. I left two more scarves in the dye bath overnight, to soak up any remaining colour.

I’m pleased with the result, but I found that this dye doesn’t penetrate the folds quite as much as others I have used, so I have rather more undyed fabric than I expected. With the gold scarves that I’d previously dyed with dahlia and buddleia, I was expecting the result to be green. However, because of the lack of penetration there is rather more gold left than I had bargained for. I might have another go at those two…

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Solar dyeing again

Well, I bet some of you out there are ahead of me here.

About three weeks ago, I started off some solar dyeing. A couple of days later, I noticed that one of the marigold jars was a different colour from the others.

Now all the jars are the same colour. You knew that was going to happen, didn’t you?

I still think it is odd that the colour developed at different speeds.

Here is the evidence:



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